EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Ereck Flowers has moved from the left to the right side, but he remains a target for those who believe he personifies the shortcomings of the Giants' offensive line.
Coach Pat Shurmur strongly defended Flowers today, 24 hours after the team's season-opening 20-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in MetLife Stadium.
"He's like every player," Shurmur said. "He had a lot of really good plays and he had a couple that he'd like to have back."
The latter includes penalties on two of the Giants' first three offensive snaps (the first for tripping, the second for holding) and surrendering a seven-yard sack of Eli Manning by Lerentee McCray.
"He had the tripping penalty and then on the hold, and that happens frequently, the quarterback scrambled, which was good, and unfortunately there's times when those holds occur," Shurmur said. "That was the gist of it the first drive.
"Again, he had a lot of really good reps and he had a couple he'd like to have back. He's going to work to get better, just like every player."
That was essentially the message Flowers delivered when he stopped to speak to reporters in the Giants locker room.
"It's cool, I'm just trying to get better," Flowers said. "The other thing is just try to play more consistent. There were a couple of plays where I just need to – let's just say more consistent. Let's just say that.
"I think I did some good things, but I think there's some things I need to work on. It's part of the game."
Flowers, the Giants' first-round draft choice in 2015, started his first 47 career games – including one in the playoffs – at left tackle. Last year, the line endured several injuries and struggled, and Dave Gettleman made its improvement one of his priorities when he was introduced as general manager on Dec. 29. The restructuring included the signing of veteran free agents Patrick Omameh and Nate Solder, the latter to play left tackle. When Solder arrived, Flowers became the right tackle.
"It was my first full game at right," Flowers said. "(Jacksonville had) probably the best rushers yet that I've played at right, so it was a little different. But got to get better and move on. Go on to the next game and continue to work at it and get better at it."
The Giants return to action Sunday night against the Cowboys in Dallas.
"I think we have a lot to improve, and I think that our protection can improve," Solder said of the line, which allowed two sacks, six hits on Manning, and a tipped pass that was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Myles Jack. "I think that was part of the reason that we struggled, and it all starts with balance on everything we do.
"I think the most important thing you take away from that is where you need to improve, how we need to improve because we know the next team is going to be watching the same film, they're going to attack us in similar ways and we got to get better at those things."
In his 15 years with the Giants, Manning has strongly supported the linemen in front of him, and he repeated that message today.
"I thought the offensive line did a good job going against a good front," Manning said. "That's why their team has been so successful. Their front four is extremely talented, and they get pressure on the quarterback. I thought those guys competed. They hung in there tough. Obviously, that's football. There's times where you get some pressure, and you got to make good decisions with it. There's some times we had great protection, and had a ton of time to really push the ball down the field."
If the line is going to improve, perhaps it can start with Flowers, but it also must include Jon Halapio, Will Hernandez, Omameh and Solder. And they all believe the line will continue to develop and coalesce as the season progresses.
"As you know, I'm fond of our roster," Shurmur said. "I'm fond of our offensive linemen. Ereck had a lot of really good plays yesterday, so what we're going to do is try to help him with some of the technique work that he can improve on, just like every player, to eliminate some of those mistakes. You just keep working with him, and then we always rotate guys through in the event that we have injuries. You don't see that, but that happens."
"We got a lot of guys that really care," Solder said. "You ask any one of those guys that have seen the film, before we even go to the meetings, so they're invested and they were thinking about it, they were processing it and then it's going to show up tomorrow when the guys are getting ready to play Dallas and it's going to show up this week as we're refining and improving our techniques going forward."